Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Berlin Can Handle Another Memorial

Over the last few weeks, the German parliament has been criticized for their approval of an increasing number of memorials to be built in central Berlin (Spiegel Online: “Commemoration Saturation: Can Berlin Handle Any More Memorials?”, November 5, 2007). The latest addition to the growing collection, a memorial to the fall of the Berlin Wall, titled “Memorial to the Freedom and Unity of Germany,” was approved by a majority parliament vote on November 9.

Many claim that the proliferating monuments in central Berlin are a signal that Germany has gotten in over its head in trying to atone for the sins of the 20th century, and that the landscape of Berlin has taken on an air of guilt that is not reflected elsewhere in German culture. However, these monuments also serve as a way of healing and coming to terms with the city’s turbulent history. Berlin is a city that is steeped in its own past; you can’t turn a corner without coming across a physical reminder of the last century. The monuments give both Germans and tourists a place to reflect on what has happened and how Berlin is moving forward. And though some of the memorials, such as Peter Eiseman’s “Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe,” do give off an aura of guilt, they also show that Germany is not willing to forget the darker parts of her history.

The approval of the “Memorial to the Freedom and Unity of Germany” should not be seen as yet another memorial to a victimized people, but as a sign that Germany’s healing process is beginning to come full circle.

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